Today, MSNBC released Donald Trump's 1040 tax form from 2005. But don't be fooled: we still don't have his tax returns. This fight is far from over.


Only a few moments ago, Rachel Maddow announced that MSNBC had obtained copies of Donald Trump's tax returns from 2005. Later, it was clarified that they instead had his form 1040, a document which provides only an overview of income and taxes paid. It revealed that Donald Trump made $140 million dollars in the 2005 fiscal year, and paid $38 million dollars in taxes. He wrote off $100 million in business losses.

What the documents don't show, however, is the source of his income — and that's what we care about.

We don't demand the tax returns of the President so that we can stand in awe of his $400,000/day income. Instead, we ask for them so that we can verify that Donald Trump has no possible conflicts of interest which could affect his ability to faithfully serve the American people. We hope that by releasing his tax returns he proves that he is not financially beholden to any individual, organization, or foreign government. By studying his tax returns, we can confirm once and for all whether Donald Trump is as successful a businessman as he purports to be, a claim on which he based his campaign. But today's leaks accomplish neither.

A photo of Donald Trump's 2005 tax return

A scanned copy of the first page of Donald Trump's 2005 form 1040.

Instead of providing insight into Donald Trump's financial affiliations, the documents prove only that Donald Trump paid his taxes in 2005. While it's certainly reassuring to know that Donald Trump did in fact fulfill his civic obligation to pay taxes that year, the leak is far from the full-scale release that we've long been hoping for.

It's likely that the White House will turn this leak into a talking point, dismissing the issue of his tax returns as a non-issue. "You saw his 2005 tax returns, there was nothing there. Case dismissed." But this isn't a valid claim: we still don't have Trump's tax returns from 2005. All we saw was his form 1040, a document which provides minimal information into the financials of the President. If we want to verify that Trump has no conflicts of interest, we need his full business tax returns.

While the leak is certainly a small step towards transparency in the Trump administration, his form 1040 reveals little about his dealings in 2005 — let alone in the twelve years since then.

Don't be fooled into thinking that we now have Donald Trump's tax returns. For all intents and purposes, we still do not.


This is a developing story.


Note from the author:

Personally, I suspect that this was a White House orchestrated leak. Why would the leaker choose a year which paints Donald Trump in a largely positive light? Why not 2015?

Soon, I will publish a follow-up article which explores these ideas in greater depth.